Sometimes you want to isolate yourself from the sounds of the outside world. The natter of other people in the office, the sounds of traffic in the street, the constant droning of an aeroplane... What you want is a pair of active noise-cancelling headphones.
While active noise-cancelling headphones can have a price premium compared to regular headphones, the extra price can be more than worth it if you're a regular commuter. ANC headphones can make even the worst commuter experience slightly more bearable by letting you enjoy your morning podcast or music playlist free of disturbance. ANC can also mean you don't have to crank the volume up quite so high, helping preserve your hearing.
Hit the dropdown menu above to head straight to our short reviews, or read on for more buying advice. You can also click through to read the full reviews to find out everything you need to know about each model.
Video: Trusted Explains – What type of headphones should you buy?
AKG N60 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £230 | Now £149
Creative Sound Blaster EVO ZxR at Amazon.com | Was $299 | Now $99
See also: Best Headphones
When considering headphones like these, there are a few basic questions you need to ask yourself.
First and foremost, do you want in-ear models or a larger over-ear or on-ear type? With in-ear pairs, all the cancelling gubbins is packed into a little remote housing that's built somewhere along the cable or in a collar worn behind the neck. It generally gets a bit annoying, unless you wear clothes that are happy to accommodate a shirt clip. Larger pairs, such as Bose's mega-popular models, fit everything into the earcups themselves. They're therefore a lot neater and easier to live with.
A quirk of Bose's active noise-cancelling on its QuietComfort 25 headphones was that they wouldn't output any sound at all unless cancellation was switched on. Run out of battery and you were well and truly stuffed. Thankfully, the newer wireless QuietComfort 35 can fall back on a completely passive, wired experience when the battery runs out. Of course, this comes at the sacrifice of ANC. Some alternatives pull the same trick, while others don't. Bear this is mind if you know you tend to spend a long part of your day away from a charger.
However, the battery life of ANC headphones is improving. These days, you're looking at around 20 hours, though some offer up to 50 hours of use. Similarly, while many pairs use custom rechargeable units, plenty of others rely on good old AA/AAA batteries.
Some ANC headphones include fancy tech ensuring you can still be aware of the outside world when need be, either my temporarily disabling the noise-cancelling or by toning it down. Headphones such as Bose's QuietControl 30 let you adjust the level of ANC, whereas Sony's MDR-1000X has a clever aware mode that uses the microphones to let you hear what's outside.
Sound quality and comfort has vastly improved from the early years of ANC headphones, too. Old models used to have an annoying electronic hiss and a strange pressure sensation when worn, but most models have managed to remove these annoyances. Sound quality can now rival non-ANC headphones for richness and energy.